Vegetable Pulao is a one-pot-complete meal of a rice dish cooked with basmati rice, spices and vegetables. We have paired it with cucumber raita, which is typical of an Indian household. Very rarely would one see a meal of only pulao. In many Indian kitchens, pulao is cooked in pressure cookers making it a weeknight meal. But it is gussied up for occasions too by enriching it with nuts and raisins.
The word "pulao" has a fascinating history. It comes from the Persian word "pilau" and is a superb example of how historic events such as invasions, imperial offensives and colonization permanently impact the eating habits of the conquerors and the conquered. Pilau spread to Turkey to be called "pilav," in Spain it came to be known as"paella," and in the Mughal kitchens in India, pulao transformed into "biryani." Both pulao and biryani have a vegetable and a meat version, though biryani connoisseurs dismiss their vegetarian counterparts as not worthy of being called biryani.
While in pulao, all the ingredients are cooked together in a single pot, biryani comes together by slow-cooking several advanced ingredients such as semi-cooked rice, marinated vegetables or meat and roasted spice mix.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons ghee
Dry Whole Spices
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick about 2" long
4-5 black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
Other Spices and Herbs
1 medium red onion peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
1 teaspoon peeled, grated ginger
2 medium garlic cloves peeled and roughly mashed (you can grate garlic too)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium roma tomato cut into 1" x 1" pieces
1 medium yellow/golden potato peeled & chopped into 1" long x 1/2" wide pieces
1 cup frozen or fresh vegetable mix of corn, beans and carrots
1 cup basmati rice
Take the 1 cup basmati rice in a bowl and wash in running water till the drained water runs clear. Now soak the rice till the rice is submerged in water for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile pour the 2 tbsp oil & 2 tbsp ghee into a thick-bottomed pot. Turn the heat on to medium. Add 1tsp cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
Add the 1cinnamon stick, 3-4 cloves, and 4-5 black peppercorns. Stir and add the sliced onions and cut tomatoes.
Saute and let onions turn translucent and tomatoes soften. Pour in the potatoes, frozen vegetables, ginger, and garlic.
Stir and cook till ginger and garlic lose their raw taste, which will take about a minute.
Add the 1/2 tsp red chile powder, 1tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 3/4 tsp salt.
Drain the soaked rice and combine it with the vegetable and spice mixture.
Pour in 2 cups of water and mix well.
Once the water is close to disappearing, cover with a lid and turn the heat to low.
To make sure that the pulao is done, perform this test.
Take 2-3 grains of rice in a spoon and squish a grain in between your thumb and index finger. If the squish happens easily, rice is ready.
Serve hot with cucumber raita.
Cucumber raita is an easy-peasy yogurt-based dish that many Indians like to pair with a rice dish like pulao. Tomatoes and onion raita are common too.
1 regular cucumber or English cucumber peeled and diced into 1/4' x 1/4" pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
Mix all the ingredients and serve.
If you are making raita in advance, skip the salt. Add the salt just before serving to prevent the raita from becoming watery.